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M Backpackable Wood Stoves: Theory and Ultralight Application

by David Chenault

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Article Summary:

Wood stoves for backpacking, who would have thought? And not the increasing popular wood burners for outdoor cooking in the mold of the Bushbuddy - these are contained wood stoves housed inside a shelter. They have been proven convenient in the most incongruous circumstances, but whether they are suitable for ultralight wilderness travel, and if so when, will be the subject of this article.

Backpackable wood stoves have been around for quite some time. Kifaru, most commonly known for their hunting backpacks, deserves most of the credit for popularizing the category. Their pioneering resulted in the competitors shown below, who have in turn prompted the recent race to make ever lighter stoves. Historically backpackable wood stoves were cubical, and built from flat pieces of stainless steel or, more recently, titanium. The new generation of designs integrates metal foil into a substantial portion of the structure. The resultant lack of joints saves weight, as does the lack of need (in many cases) for said foil to be fully weight bearing. All but two of the stoves listed below have been introduced in the last 18 months, which is not a coincidence. As backpackable wood stoves have become more popular, their weight burden has become more egregiously felt. The end result is only good for us ultralighters. For example, the classic Kifaru medium box stove has a volume only slightly greater than their new 12 in wall oval stove, and weighs much more at five pounds greater.

However lighter they may be than their predecessors, the 1 - 2 lbs these stoves represent is not something an UL backpack will add to their pack without due skepticism. These stoves must earn their place, and thus a detailed discussion of their function must form the meat of this article.


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